This exotic beauty was discovered by accident, on a ramble I was taking along the unused rail trail at the back of our home. There I found a medium-sized tree covered with sage green leaves and amazing red buds. A crimson velvety spathe, or pointed hood, enclosed each flower. Several short hairs protruded from the tip of every tube-like spadix, growing from the centre. I had seen nothing like it before. Fortunately my camera was at hand so I snapped a few photos of this glorious tree.
The Erythrina indica—often called the coral tree—is not native to Australia.Most likely it was introduced from South Asia: India, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand where it flourishes everywhere.Erythrina comes from the Greek word for red, eruthros, alluding to the showy red flowers of the Erythrina specie. The Erythrina indica is also considered to be an invasive weed as almost any part of it will grow into a new tree. Broken branches, bits of bark, even wood chips from mulched coral trees will produce another copy of itself.
During the following months a group of “Green Warriors” moved along the rail trail, energetically clearing the banks and shoulders of weeds, so as to replant them with natives. They tidied up the environment but when I returned to check on the Erythrina indica tree, I was heart-broken to discover it had been dug out and completely removed. Its unique beauty is gone from this place forever but thank goodness, I can still admire it in those treasured photographs.
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From my first glimpse of the Sturt Desert Pea, I was nearly blown away. So dramatic and strangely beautiful is its appearance, one could believe this flower found its way here from another alien world. Its common name honours Charles Sturt, who first recorded seeing large quantities of the flowers while exploring central Australia in 1844. The Desert Pea, (Swainsona formosa, previously known as Clianthus formosis,) is also recognized as the state floral emblem of South Australia. Its iconic status and striking beauty has ensured its use as a popular subject in art work and photography. The Desert Pea has appeared in several releases of postage stamps depicting Australian floral emblems, and it features in Aboriginal legends.
Native Koori groups refer to the Desert Pea as the ‘Flower of Blood.’ This title comes from a story which tells of a young woman who escaped marriage to an old man by eloping with her young lover. The shunned man and his friends tracked, found, and killed the couple together with the relatives that sheltered them. Years later the old man returned to the killing field only to discover the ground was covered with scarlet flowers we know as the Sturt Desert Pea.
On his first sighting of the Desert Pea, the 19th century botanist and collector, William Baeuerlen wrote, “To discover the Desert Pea trailing its long roots over the red sands, with its soft ash-grey leaves and large clusters of magnificent flowers rising from the level of the sand, will behold a sight he is not likely to ever forget.” Famous for its blood-red, leaf-like flowers, each with a bulbous black centre called the ‘Boss,’ the Sturt Desert Pea remains one of Australia’s best loved wildflowers.
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As we explore and classify the endless variety of earth’s botanical kingdom, one could easily believe that nothing new remains to be discovered. But wait – as even today new species are still found.
During a recent field trip to the Australian outback, botanists from Bush Heritage Australia discovered a completely new flowering plant. Its CEO, Gerard O’Neill, caught this image on camera. An exquisite deep pink and white flower, with petals curling back to sweep behind its bloom, was given its popular name—the wreath flower—by O’Neill. Seeds were collected together with a photo, a cut flower, a bud, and information on its environment. This material was sent to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust for official classification. Soon another little beauty will enter the lexicon of Australian flora to be made available for study and interested gardeners to cultivate.
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Does your computer desk top background need a makeover? Visit the Bush Heritage website, select the News & Media tab then scroll down to Desktop Wallpapers. View stunning photographs taken by Bush Heritage photographers and if you like one, click, Get This Image. Right click on the image then click, Set as Desktop Background, from the pull down menu.
Enjoy your new look!
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